The Art of Loving

I am thinking about Valentine’s Day, well, because my art is about gifts. The art of the gift. Valentine’s Day brings to mind love. I love Valentine’s Day, have for many years. It is one of my favorite holidays. Not too showy, actually kind of a quiet holiday in some ways, a holiday about intimacy. I have made my husband valentine artworks every year for the 36 years we have been together. I wish I had taken better care of them. But oh well on that front. Perhaps I will keep up the tradition and take a little better care of them moving forward.

Anyway, the art of loving is just that. An art. Love, at this stage of my life, is very different than the love I felt as a young woman making those valentines’ for my husband. Now, making him a valentine might take more effort, it is less inspired by passion more a labor of a different kind of love. Erich Fromm likened this kind of love to commitment. In his book, The Art of Loving, Fromm maintained that “love is not merely a feeling but is also expressed through actions, and that in fact, the ‘feeling’ of love is superficial in comparison to one's commitment to love via a series of loving actions over time. In this sense, Fromm held that love is ultimately not a feeling at all, but rather is a commitment to, and adherence to, loving actions towards another, oneself, or many others, over a sustained duration. Fromm also described love as a conscious choice that in its early stages might originate as an involuntary feeling, but which then later no longer depends on those feelings, but rather depends only on conscious commitment” (from Wikipedia).

So, this Valentine’s Day, I will make my husband another valentine, I will acknowledge my commitment to him and my love for him and maybe, just maybe, I will dedicate myself more consciously to actions that center around growing that love, through small actions, so that I might encourage the creation of a more loving environment within my home. If my art is an expression of myself and my practice, then I want my practice to be one that holds love as the highest order and pursue that potential with all my heart.          

Stuff

Still life with stuff, 2015

Still life with stuff, 2015

This morning I was defending all my stuff to my husband. As a maker of things, a producer and artist of terra firma, I am committed to stuff. My parents are still alive and they have some stuff left, albeit sifted and downsized many times over the past decades. Each time they moved, they culled more stuff from their archives and tag saled it or gave it to the Salvation Army. What a relief! I feel so much lighter! Well, then there comes the regret. What happened to that amazing set of Russell Wright dinnerware I grew up with? Just one serving bowl left from that entire set of mid century dishes that I would love to have in my collection. My argument to my husband this morning is this – yes, there is an inclination to go overboard with shopping and hoarding and making piles of stuff, but there is a flip side to that notion. My stuff is a record of my history, an archive of my choices over the years. As such, I think it important as a part of my chosen identity and the way I imbue meaning in my world. The meaning I find in my life is often attached to the things that I have chosen and sometime those items that have been gifted to me by others. The books, music, art and objects of living; dishes, furniture and linens, all lend their auras to the environment that is my home and where I spend much of my time. So, instead of giving into the impulse to throw lots of things away, ála Marie Kondo, I am choosing to take a breath – and find better ways to organize and display what I have. William Morris, perhaps a better mentor for the thoughtful interior space then the overly spare alternative. 

Cooking, Ruth Reichl and my dishes

Ruth Reichl has been a friend for many years, we are members of the Mutual Admiration Society. Ruth’s work as a food writer and editor/critic extraordinaire is well noted. Her latest effort is a cook book/memoir “My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved my Life” – a narrative in cooking. When Gourmet magazine closed 5 years ago, she says, she was set adrift. The lauded food pub of the highest order was shuttered. She was not alone in feeling she had been ambushed and abandoned. There were tears. There was outrage. There was disbelief. How could this happen?? Publishing had changed and the internet was to blame.

 

However, while Gourmet closed up shop and the legendary Ruth Reichl found herself at a loss – two things were happening and she was in the cross hairs. The internet was changing magazine and newspaper publication. Even the New York Times was regrouping, organizing itself around a new format. Online subscription. At the same time, food itself was in flux. A new kind of ethos, the local food movement, around for decades but gaining ground in more and more places continued apace. Farmers markets in urban centers were proliferating. Cooking was on the rise and eating well was also experiencing a renaissance. Why then would a magazine as heralded for the best recipes and writing in the business quit? Ruth Reichl asked herself that question while she cooked. And Cooked. And cooked. Somewhere around then, maybe a bit earlier Ruth began acquiring my dishes. She started with eight cake plates and ended up with 24 place settings. She chose bright colors and dots. She gave me freedom to make for her what I was inspired to make. Her cooking ended up on my plates at her table and her friends started buying my plates.

My dinnerplate in Ruth's book with gorgeous beet died deviled eggs

My dinnerplate in Ruth's book with gorgeous beet died deviled eggs

This fall, Ruth published her first cookbook and my plates make up quite a few of the backdrops for the photographed food. In one photograph in particular, beet died deviled eggs are displayed on one of my turquoise plates, and pow! Food becomes a performance. Delicious and beautiful.

 

Ruth’s new cookbook is a revelation for many. A personal story, candid and authentic, peppered with recipes – but not just any recipes. Robin McKay (another neighbor) tested the recipes and (embarrassingly) noted one dish was so delicious she licked the plate. (see acknowledgements). The recipes in this book are fabulous. I have been trying them bit by bit and am stoked to begin incorporating some in my repertoire. The apple crisp and grilled cheese sandwich are two in particular have gotten a lot of mileage lately. The generosity of this book is worth note – both in Ruth’s ability to share her life with us all and in her capacity as a cook to make food sexy, delicious, poetic and beautiful. Delight comes to mind. Cooking takes effort – planning, preparation, time, and motivation. It is easy to buy prepared food, frozen or takeout. Ruth’s book challenges us to engage in cooking in a way that inspires even the most resistant wannabe chef to take up the knife – slice up some onions and make dinner!

Mala Meal Project

 'Dear Mother Nature', Dorsky Museum of Art, 2012

 'Dear Mother Nature', Dorsky Museum of Art, 2012

In about 1998 when my studio was in the meat packing district of lower Manhattan, I had a flash of an idea. I envisioned a collection of 108 bowls, metaphors for the beads in a mala, set in a circle on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and serve a very early morning breakfast. A hit and run sort of extemporaneous performative meal-art-thingy that never left my brain. 3 years later, after 9/11, I felt a sense of urgency to make an iteration of that idea come to life. The first Mala Meal event took place on June 21st, 2002 at Art Omi, Ghent, NY. A full Mala Meal with 108 bowls and 108 (or so) people to participate has happened 5 times in the past 13 years. As part of an art exhibition in honor of Mother Nature (Dear Mother Nature, Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz, 2012) and also part of a conference in Berkeley, California called Digital Earth, the Mala Meal Project speaks to a deeply felt need to connect. Universals are almost impossible to sustain -- the minute we find one, plurality, multiplicity and variation interrupt our universalizing desire. The Mala Meal Project allows a universalizing moment to occur within the confines of an event. The event is this ceremonial meal, preceded by a prayer (several prayers or blessings, actually) said in an inclusive and interfaith manner. The event at Berkeley included an atheist who said a lovely blessing -- one devoid of notions of God but without ideas about faith and hope and the possibility of life that includes the human on the planet. A secular humanist poet. Yay.

Finished Mala Meal bowls, waiting to be packed up

Finished Mala Meal bowls, waiting to be packed up

So, in the spirit of building community, I have been invited to share this event at the monthly artists' potluck that happens at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Hudson, NY tonight, October 16 at 6PM. In addition to the Mala Meal, we will see artworks by artists Stuart Farmery, Jan Harrison, Arnie Zimmerman and perhaps a few surprises. If you are around I hope you will come. Otherwise, stay tuned for future meal-art-thingies coming down the pipeline from the studio. Our business is our art and spirit.  

 

Showing, Selling and Marketing

Today’s musings reflect notions of economies, skill and marketing. General categories of ideas that I am perpetually pushing around in my brain.

Booth shot, 2014

Booth shot, 2014

Selling work at craft shows, art fairs, markets and through the studio is generally how we get what we make into the world. Selling and marketing artwork is a challenging process as art in general is so subjective. My art, the product of the studio, is functional and therefore an easy sell. I have chosen to market my work close to home both as a way to generate income and to contribute to the developing economic foundation of my community. I believe in the power of local economies and making things in a community in a responsible way. I have been involved in the Balle Network organization for many years, founding a Balle Network in Columbia County and attending several conferences. I have also been a charter member of Berkshares, a local currency that has had global attention because of its ties to the Schumacher Center for a New Economics as well as its longevity and history.

Ideas spur my work. The idea that art is more than making objects, is a practice of doing, of making and of participating in the world in my backyard is how I have chosen to express myself within my art, within my craft and my trade.

I will be part of the Art and Farm Tour September 26th and 27th at Spruceridge Farm in Old Chatham. Come see new porcelain giftware and dinnerware, enjoy the alpacas and take a glimpse at how a peaceful world might look. We are blessed in this place. Come visit!

Beautiful alpacas at Spruceridge Farm

Beautiful alpacas at Spruceridge Farm

Musings on Production

Preparing bisque-ware to be glazed. Sage, Jessica and Ben.

Preparing bisque-ware to be glazed. Sage, Jessica and Ben.

We make things. That is our art, that is our business. By “our” I refer to myself and to the people that work at davistudio. By things I refer the items you see for sale on this website, at the studio, in stores listed on this website and at the craft shows, art fairs and markets we participate in. Everything that comes out of the studio, start to finish, is made here. For some this might seem obvious. I would suggest that for those to whom this is not news are a) people who know the studio, who have been here and have seen how it operates – OR – b) other makers/producers or aficiandos. Making/producing is a highly charged and complex activity. It wasn’t always so. For this bit of writing, suffice it to say that wealthy nations, such as the USA, have, for better or for worse, let go of much of our productive capacity. I argue that a shift is taking place, however.

The rise of the maker community, the rising awareness, acceptance even, of artists, designers, artisans and that nebulous being, the ‘creative’ are encouraging the noble act of making again.

Davistudio has been committed to making since its inception some 20 years ago. Pressure was applied by those who would like to see our products more cheaply made, or existing factories that would like our business itself. Somehow or another, I intuited the need to hold on for dear life the noble act of making, to maintain control of my productive capacity and by extension, every detail of the design and execution process. This control grants us control over options in regards to environmental protection as well as contributing to the economic integrity of our community. These small acts of agency allow us to live with greater freedom and to know that simply making is anything but simple. It is in fact, a revolutionary act. 

 

ps- 14 years ago today I was deeply impacted, as was everyone else alive on the planet, to an even further commitment to making. Keeping it local seems a better way to govern ourselves, to keep ourselves solid in community and to respect other's capacity to survive without our intervention. Never forget is a cry to tread lightly, to be an example and to be responsible.

Summer in Spencertown

Setting up at the Spencertown Academy

Setting up at the Spencertown Academy

This summer starts off with a busy day May 30th. During the day, I will be on the green in Spencertown with giftware and smaller ceramics for sale from 10AM - 3PM. That evening, from 4-6PM, I'm thrilled to be part of an art exhibition that opens at the Spencertown Academy debuting some very new work for me, through June 21st. Still lives with traces of my garden sillhouetted on the paintings... a breakthrough both conceptually and aesthetically. If you are upstate this weekend please stop by either or both events, I'd love to see you. Starting June 6th, the studio will open on Saturdays from noon - 5PM through Labor Day, and as always by appointment or chance. It will be great to see you this summer!! Iced tea now brewing!!

Production on the Hill

The studio has been been thrumming with life, production creating cups and dishes for clients and stock. 

an homage to the motor city

an homage to the motor city

Next week is NYNOW, the massive wholesale gift show at the Javits Center in New York City. My rep and business partner, Janet McKean, will be there with bells on, again, this year in a bigger booth. We have tons of new items. The small tumbler with words and a few images will be on hand. Plus I have a new collection called Cities, States, and Regions.  More like a project than a collection, I think about a new bunch of images or words philosophically. The Cities, States, and Regions project hearkens to particular places in my history – places I have lived, worked, visited or think about. Most have an association with the artistic community that may be flourishing there. Detroit, for example, is where I grew up, in my formative adolescence. I returned to finish my BFA at the lauded Cranbrook Academy of Art there so Detroit holds a very special place in my heart. After so many years of struggle, urban blight, violence and poverty, it is starting to emerge as an affordable refuge for artists.

That’s a quick thought for today about what’s coming out of the studio. I plan to fill these virtual pages more consistently this year, so check back often. Also, the store is stocked with giftware, still working on filling that, but you can get a quick gift shipped anywhere there.

Thanks for reading and being part of the davistudio experience. Come visit and stay for lunch!

Place

Brooklyn Tumblers

NEW WORK : This spring we will be launching two new collections – Cities, States and Regions and Farm Animals. These are words or drawings that reflect ideas that have been mulling in my brain, sometimes for a very long time! Ah, like aged wine, slow thinking helps me develop words and images that have deep meaning, for me at least! If you find these thoughts meaningful perhaps you will consider adding some to your collection. A few previews are on the website in the store.

End of the year

It has been a wonderful year here at davistudio. I always want to write more here on the blog and seem to only get around to it now and again. So, here a brief blog for today, no promises, but I again hope to write more in the coming days and next year. Sage is hard at work this morning finishing up last minute end of year stuff for Christmas. This Saturday I have decided to have a studio open house, so if you are in the neighborhood, do stop in. There is a ton of stuff for last minute gift shopping. Gift wrapping service, hot tea and some sort of sweet thing will be on hand as will I, to entertain with my pithy banter...

 

 

Getting ready

Jess caught in the act of casting new work.

Jess caught in the act of casting new work.

It is the Monday before Thanksgiving and there is so much going on!! Production is fully engaged and we are prepping for the next couple of weekends at local craft fairs. This weekend is the Farm and Flea at the Basilica in Hudson. The organizers, Hudson River Exchange are a terrific group, very energetic and organized. It is a new kind of vibe in this space, fresh, a contemporary aesthetic, handmade and friendly. 

Simple Pleasures


Featured store

Simple Pleasures

Providence, Rhode Island

In full bloom in the thick of the summer.

In full bloom in the thick of the summer.

I had the great pleasure of visiting this unique little shop in Providence recently. Located near the Seekonk River, this amazing little establishment boasts a sweet variety of hand picked treasures chosen by its proprietress, Mary Moore. They carry my small owl and dog dishes if you are out and about in Providence and desperate for a gift.

 

Delicious


Friend and client Ruth Reichl has a new book out. Delicious is a romance that revolves around, what else? Food! Reichl's first foray into fiction is a wonderful romp through the last days of food magazine "Delicious", a thin veil between it and Gourmet Magazine where she was head for a decade. Billie Breslin takes us on a sympathetic journey of passionate foodie, intrepid sleuth and talented baker with an exquisite palate. 

Ruth is a client with multiple place settings of davistudio fine porcelain and it is an honor to be present in her kitchen cupboards while I relish her latest literary accomplishment. 

Dishes for Maui

WHITEWARE MAUI.jpg

This year Foley and Cox joined our ranks as a favorite retail outlet for dinnerware in Hudson, NY. Their first client order is this group of beautiful white dishes, simple and elegant, yet retaining that slight imperfect sense of quirk davistudio is famous for. Subtly textured, the whiteware is thin, a reflection of the fine porcelain that is standard from the studio. Since each piece is handmade, they are like individuals, each plate, bowl, and cup with its own personality. One of the unique aspects of this set of dishes is the addition of the 14” charger. The over scaled round plate adds a grand elegance to this artisanal dinnerware set, calling to question staid tradition while simultaneously embracing the layered protocol of a gorgeous table.

 

Foley and Cox is located in New York City and in Hudson, NY. 

Foley and Cox

One of our newest stockists is Foley and Cox. A classy interior design team located in New York City, Michael and Mary have recently opened a shop in Hudson. This talented duo have been creating interiors for discerning clients since 2002. If you haven't been shopping on Warren Street, check it out. Hudson is an amazing shopping street that stretches from the Hudson River almost a mile up to Route 9. Antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, galleries, all kinds of places to peek into and meander through. Meet up with friends at the end of your day, take in a good meal at Swoon or see some music at Club Helsinki. The Red Dot is open late.  

Arts and Crafts

It seems we are living in an all or nothing world. Since my focus here is on production and handmade stuff, I'm going to address that statement vis a vis look at how our stuff comes into being. A lot of stuff in the world, the intimate items of everyday use, are produced in factories whose main objective is to maximise producation and reduce dollar cost. This approach has lead to a vast network of factories, delivery systems and distributors whose objective is also to maximise output while reducing cost with an eye on profit. In and of itself these are fine objectives. But, as the world has gotten bigger (or smaller) the means of production by large scale industrial factories ceases to be an affective tool to eradicate poverty and hunger, for the many. Industrial factories often seek to reduce human labor, as in the pin factory model of Adam Smith. Separating steps of production to be performed in a rote fashion has reduced the cost of production, in the short run. But the long term implications of this model are waning in their affectiveness.

What of the role of craft and the master craftsman (woman)? I argue that craft enhances our lives, all the more so in an age where anything is accesable and our wants are being placed above our needs. Craft gives us greater choice, flexibility and empowers us to create lives of greater meaning. Choosing small scale craft producers goods in a time of over production of mass marketed objects allows the freedom to buy things that build a home full of items of individual taste. If freedom is the big thing these days, why not express that through buying handmade stuff? Curate your home.